The Dopamine Transporter Gene (DAT1) in Obesity and Binge Eating Disorders

  • Karen Wight
  • Caroline Reid-Westoby
  • Caroline Davis


Reward-based motivations to eat seem to overpower homeostatic drives in some individuals. Binge eating represents an extreme phenotype of hedonic overeating, is a significant risk factor for substantial weight gain over time, and a defining symptom of both binge eating disorder (BED) and bulimia nervosa. Experts believe the action of the neurotransmitter dopamine on the brain’s “common reward pathway” is primarily accountable for hedonic motivations for food intake. The genetically determined action and availability of dopamine on this pathway appear to determine individual variations in the tendency to overeat and vulnerability to binge eating disorders and obesity. Some experts speculate dysfunctional dopamine availability predisposes individuals to binge eating based on the Reward Deficiency Syndrome theory of addictive behaviors; whereas, contrasting views propose an elevated dopamine signal also places individuals at risk for binge eating due to a stronger appetitive motivation and response to food cues and eating. Dopamine availability is polygenic and determined by several factors, one of which is the density of dopamine transporter (DAT) – which regulates the strength and duration of the dopamine signal by transporting it back into the presynaptic neuron. The gene encoding the DAT protein has been of particular interest in studies on addictions and eating behavior, as it contains a functional VNTR polymorphism. Variations of the DAT gene (DAT1) VNTR are associated with differences in DAT-binding site density, and therefore, levels of dopamine availability. This chapter reviews the literature on the role of the DAT1 in obesity and binge eating disorders.


Binge Eating Bulimia Nervosa Binge Eating Disorder Binge Eating Behavior Appetite Rating 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Attention deficit/(hyperactivity) disorder


Binge eating disorder


Body mass index


Dopamine transporter


Dopamine transporter gene


Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition


Reward deficiency syndrome


Untranslated region


Variable number tandem repeat


  1. Agranat-Meged AN, Deitcher C, Goldzweig G, Leibenson L, Stein M, Galili-Weisstub E. Int J Eat Disord. 2005;37:357–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altfas JR. BMC Psychiatry. 2002;2:9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual. 4th ed. Text revision. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association Press; 2000.Google Scholar
  4. Bellgrove MA, Hawi Z, Kirley A, Fitzgerald M, Gill M, Robertson IH. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2005;30:2290–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berridge KC. Brain Cogn. 2003;52:106–28.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bina KG, Cincotta AH. Neuroendocrinology. 2000;71:68–78.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blum K, Braverman ER, Holder JM, Lubar JF, Monastra VJ, Miller D, Lubar JO, Chen TJ, Comings DE. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2000;32 (Suppl. i–iv):1–112.Google Scholar
  8. Blum K, Sheridan PJ, Wood RC, Braverman ER, Chen TJ, Cull JG, Comings DE. J R Soc Med. 1996;89:396–400.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bulik CM, Sullivan PF, Kendler KS. Int J Eat Disord. 2003;33:293–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chen PS, Yang YK, Yeh TL, Lee I-H, Yao WJ, Chiu NT, Lu RB. NeuroImage. 2008;40(1):275–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cochrane C, Malcolm R, Brewerton T. Addict Behav. 1998;23:201–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cragg SJ, Rice ME. Trends Neurosci. 2004;27:270–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Crits-Christoph P, Newberg A, Wintering N, Ploessl K, Gibbons MB, Ring-Kurtz S, Gallop R, Present J. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008;98:70–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cummings DE, Schwartz MW. Annu Rev Med. 2003;54:453–71.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Davis C, Fox J. Appetite. 2008;50:43–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Davis C, Levitan RD, Kaplan AS, Carter J, Reid C, Curtis C, Patte K, Hwang R, Kennedy JL. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008;32:620–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Davis C, Levitan RD, Kaplan AS, Carter J, Reid C, Curtis C, Patte K, Kennedy JL. Neuropsychopharmacology 2007;32:2199–206.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Davis C, Levitan RD, Smith M, Tweed S, Curtis C. Eat Behav. 2006;7:266–74.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Davis C, Strachan S, Berkson M. Appetite. 2004;42:131–8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Depue RA, Collins PF. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 1999;22:491–569.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Epstein LH, Jaroni JL, Paluch RA, Leddy JJ, Vahue HE, Hawk L, Wileyto EP, Shields PG, Lerman C. Obes Res. 2002;10:1232–40.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Epstein LH, Temple JL, Neaderhiser BJ, Salis RJ, Erbe RW, Leddy JJ. Behav Neurosci. 2007;121:877–86.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Epstein LH, Wright SM, Paluch RA, Leddy JJ, Hawk LW, Jr., Jaroni JL, Saad FG, Crystal-Mansour S, Shields PG, Lerman C. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80:82–8.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Fairburn CG, Cooper Z, Doll HA, Norman P, O’Connor M. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2000;57:659–65.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Franken IH, Muris P. Appetite. 2005;45:198–201.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fuke S, Suo S, Takahashi N, Koike H, Sasagawa N, Ishiura S. Pharmacogenomics J. 2001;1:152–6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Giros B, el Mestikawy S, Godinot N, Zheng K, Han H, Yang-Feng T, Caron MG. Mol Pharmacol. 1992;42:383–90.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Heinz A, Goldman D, Jones DW, Palmour R, Hommer D, Gorey JG, Lee KS, Linnoila M, Weinberger DR. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2000;22:133–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hernandez L, Hoebel BG. Brain Res Bull. 1990;25:975–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jeffery RW, Utter J. Obes Res. 2003;11 (Suppl.):12S–22S.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jorm AF, Henderson AS, Jacomb PA, Christensen H, Korten AE, Rodgers B, Tan X, Easteal S. Am J Med Genet. 2000;96:331–4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kelley AE, Schiltz CA, Landry CF. Physiol Behav. 2005;86:11–4.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Koob GF. Trends in Pharmacological Science. 1992;13:177–84.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kuo DY. J Biomed Sci. 2002;9:126–32.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Leddy JJ, Epstein LH, Jaroni JL, Roemmich JN, Paluch RA, Goldfield GS, Lerman C. Obes Res. 2004;12:224–32.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Li LB, Chen N, Ramamoorthy S, Chi L, Cui XN, Wang LC, et al. J Biol Chem. 2004;279:21012–20.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mattos P, Saboya E, Ayrao V, Segenreich D, Duchesne M, Coutinho G. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2004;26:248–50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mill J, Asherson P, Browes C, D’Souza U, Craig I. Am J Med Genet. 2002;114:975–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Need AC, Ahmadi KR, Spector TD, Goldstein DB. Ann Hum Genet. 2006;70:293–303.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nestle M. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003;103:39–40.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M, Resnick MD, Garwick A, Blum RW. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149:1330–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nicola SM, Taha SA, Kim SW, Fields HL. Neuroscience. 2005;135:1025–33.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Peters JC. Obes Res. 2003;11 (Suppl.):7S–11S.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Reichborn-Kjennerud T, Bulik CM, Tambs K, Harris JR. Int J Eat Disord. 2004;36:307–14.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rucker D, Padwal R, Li SK, Curioni C, Lau DC. BMJ. 2007;335:1194–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Saelens BE, Epstein LH. Appetite. 1996;27:41–50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sander T, Harms H, Podschus J, Finckh U, Nickel B, Rolfs A, Rommelspacher H, Schmidt LG. Biol Psychiatry. 1997;41:299–304.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Saper CB, Chou TC, Elmquist JK. Neuron. 2002;36:199–211.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shinohara M, Mizushima H, Hirano M, Shioe K, Nakazawa M, Hiejima Y, Ono Y, Kanba S. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2004;29:134–7.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Stice E, Akutagawa D, Gaggar A, Agras WS. Int J Eat Disord. 2000;27:218–29.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Striegel-Moore RH, Franko DL. Int J Eat Disord. 2003;34 (Suppl.):S19–29.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Vandenbergh DJ, Persico AM, Hawkins AL, Griffin CA, Li X, Jabs EW, Uhl GR. Genomics. 1992;14:1104–6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. VanNess SH, Owens MJ, Kilts CD. BMC Genet. 2005;6:55.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Volkow ND, Wang G-J, Fowler JS, Logan J, Gatley SJ, Gifford A, Hitzemann R, Ding Y-S, Pappas N. American Journal of Psychiatry. 1999;156:1440–3.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Volkow ND, Wang GJ, Fowler JS, Logan J, Franceschi D, Maynard L, Ding YS, Gatley SJ, Gifford A, Zhu W, Swanson JM. Synapse. 2002;43:181–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wang GJ, Volkow ND, Thanos PK, Fowler JS. J Addict Dis. 2004;23:39–53.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wellman PJ. Curr Drug Targets. 2005;6:191–9.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Yang B, Chan RC, Jing J, Li T, Sham P, Chen RY. Am J Med Genet B Neuropsychiatr Genet. 2007;144B:541–50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Yanovski SZ. Int J Eat Disord. 2003;34 (Suppl.):S117–20.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Yun IA, Wakabayashi KT, Fields HL, Nicola SM. J Neurosci. 2004;24:2923–33.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Zangen A, Solinas M, Ikemoto S, Goldberg SR, Wise RA. J Neurosci. 2006;26:4901–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Wight
    • 1
    • 2
  • Caroline Reid-Westoby
  • Caroline Davis
  1. 1.Faculty of HealthYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations